By Arbaz Ahmed Janjhi
KARACHI, NOV 14,2023: Caretaker Sindh Chief Minister Justice Maqbool Baqar has taken a decisive step towards revitalizing the historical Chaukhandi Graveyard, announcing plans to convert it into an Archaeological Park. Simultaneously, the Chief Minister has mandated the removal of encroachments surrounding the sacred site.
This significant decision unfolded during Justice Maqbool Baqar’s on-site inspection of Chaukhandi Graveyard to assess its current condition and devise a strategy for its restoration. The Chief Minister was accompanied by Secretary Local Govt Manzoor Shaikh, Secretary Culture Aleem Lashari, Secretary Works Nawaz Sohoo, Commissioner Karachi Saleem Rajput, DG KDA Tahir Sangi, renowned archaeologist Dr. Kaleem Lashari, Ali Naqvi, and other key officials who provided detailed insights during the briefing.
The Chief Minister expressed concern over the deteriorating state of the stone-carved graves and tombs, stressing the urgency for restoration efforts. Additionally, he noted the prevalence of encroachments and illegal structures in the vicinity of the graveyard.
Secretary Culture Aleem Lashari highlighted that the administrative control of Chaukhandi Graveyard was transferred to the Sindh government in April 2013 following the 18th constitutional amendment. Designated as a ‘Protected’ area, the graveyard secured a spot on the UNESCO tentative list in 1993.
Spread across 100 acres, Chaukhandi Graveyard holds the tombs of Baloch and Jokhio warriors from the 17th and 18th centuries A.D. The tombs, characterized by their pyramid form and adorned stone slabs featuring relief designs, lack precise dating due to scarce inscriptions. However, challenges such as theft of ancient assets and unauthorized burials have impeded UNESCO from granting it International Heritage status.
To address these challenges, the Chief Minister directed the removal of illegal parking and prohibited dumping activities near the graveyard. Furthermore, he instructed the initiation of demarcation to facilitate the construction of an additional entrance wall along the main highway, ensuring comprehensive protection.
In a forward-looking move, a committee under Secretary Culture Kaleem Lashari has been formed to propose strategies for the upliftment of the graveyard and the creation of archaeological landscapes. The Chief Minister envisions the transformation of Chaukhandi Graveyard into an Archaeological Park, with the committee tasked to submit a detailed proposal for this purpose.
The horticulture departments of KMC and KDA have been tasked with collaborating with Dr. Kaleem Lashari to initiate tree plantation and develop greenery within the graveyard area. This initiative aims to transform the site into a park, offering an archaeological atmosphere for visitors, including schoolchildren. The Chaukhandi Graveyard’s transformation marks a significant step towards preserving its historical significance and promoting cultural tourism.